A Japanese waste dump is an unlikely location for what may be a huge breakthrough in the plastics pollution crisis. But back in 2016, a team of Japanese scientists sifting through plastic waste found bacteria capable of breaking down and “eating” one of the world’s most popular plastics ― polyethylene terephthalate, or PET. It was hailed as a potential breakthrough at the time. But in a new twist, British and American scientists have announced that while studying this bacteria, they accidentally created a mutant enzyme that’s even more efficient at breaking down plastic bottles.
The discovery came as a team of scientists from the University of Portsmouth in the U.K. and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the U.S. examined an enzyme produced by the Japanese bacteria to find out more about its structure. By shining intense beams of X-rays on it, 10 billion times brighter than the sun, they were able to see individual atoms. Manipulating the structure to better understand how it worked, they accidentally engineered the mutant enzyme.
“Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research and our discovery here is no exception,” said John McGeehan, a biology professor at the University of Portsmouth and one of the lead scientists on the research. “This unanticipated discovery suggests that there is room to further improve these enzymes, moving us closer to a recycling solution for the ever-growing mountain of discarded plastics.”.. read more:https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/enzyme-plastic-bottles-pollution_us_5ad5e364e4b0edca2cbde373